2018 Alumni Achievement Award

Charles Beck

Charles N. Beck ’48, a former naval pilot, completed his master’s degree in art at the University of Iowa (1950). He taught printmaking, drawing, painting and art history at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Fergus Falls, Minn., from 1960-87. A revered Midwestern regional artist, Beck produced woodcut prints, wood carvings and oil paintings. Known for its vivid representation of Minnesota, his work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Denver Art Museum; the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, both in Minneapolis; the St. Paul Gallery; and the Rourke Art Gallery in Moorhead as well as many other colleges and universities, area businesses and public spaces throughout the region. Beck designed the Otter Tail County Historical Museum in Fergus Fall in the early 1970s and was the featured founding artist upon the opening of the Kaddatz Gallery (2009), formed to foster visual arts appreciation in Fergus Falls and to maintain a permanent, publicly accessible space for local artists. A clear champion for arts education and preservation, Beck built visual arts programs for the Fergus Falls Center for the Arts and began a permanent collection at M State, now numbering more than 400 works in all mediums, by asking students to leave a work behind and purchasing from featured artists in the Waage Gallery. The school honored him in 2007 by naming the Charles Beck Gallery located in the newly constructed Legacy Hall. Beck was inducted into the Fergus Falls Sports Hall of Fame (1986) and Fergus Falls High School Arts Hall of Fame (2003), awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts Degree from Concordia College (1979), and received the Lifetime of Creativity Award from the Plains Art Museum, Fargo, N.D. (2012). Until 2009, Beck and his wife, Joyce, managed a gallery in their home and welcomed countless visitors to view Charlie’s work. In September 2017, Beck passed away at the age of 94, still creating as he employed a new style of painting from a studio in his room at Broen Home.

Dr. Richard Sibley

Richard Sibley is a 1967 graduate of Concordia College. His 42-year career as a Professor of Anatomic Pathology began with the personal encouragement of R.E. Fuglestad, a Concordia College Professor of Biology. Sibley graduated from UND School of Medicine (M.S., 1969), and from U of Texas, Southwestern Medical School (M.D., 1971).  He completed residency training at the University of Chicago Medical Center (1971-74), and a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center (1974-1976). The early years of Sibley’s career in anatomic pathology were at the University of Minnesota (1976-1986). He was influenced there and supported by numerous clinical colleagues in the areas of solid organ transplantation and medical kidney disease. During his Minnesota tenure, Sibley wrote numerous articles and presented academic papers at American and international congresses and conferences. In 1986 Sibley was appointed Professor of Pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He held administrative positions of co-director of anatomic pathology, medical director of clinical laboratories and associate chair for clinical services.  Sibley continued to publish professional papers and book chapters on solid organ transplantation, medical renal disease and neoplastic disorders. He served for many years on the editorial boards of Ultrastructural Pathology, Transplantation International, Modern Pathology and Human Pathology. During the span of Sibley’s 42-year career, he has seen the transformation of medicine from a male-dominated profession to one of inclusivity.  Sibley continues to teach women and men who are medical students, pathology residents and fellows who come to Stanford University from all over the world. He teaches how to do what he does best – diagnose disease.

Darnell Carter

Darnell E. Carter '75 is a retired assistant prosecuting attorney for Clark County, Ohio (1980-2008), where he tried many capital murder cases and was appointed head of the criminal division in 2005. He was one of the first, in 1988, to gain a conviction based primarily on DNA evidence, an emerging science at the time. In 1993, the same year as the siege on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, Ohio Gov. George Voinovich appointed Carter as one of the lead prosecutors during a prisoner riot at the maximum-security prison in Lucasville, Ohio, from which he earned the Governor’s Commendation and Resolution. The riot, one of the largest in the U.S. for number of participants, resulted in a 10-day standoff and the death of nine prisoners and one guard. Prior to being an attorney, Carter grew up as the son of a sheriff’s deputy and jail warden and was a National Merit Commended Scholar. He graduated from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa (1979), taught English at Springfield South High School and obtained his master’s in history from The Ohio State University (1993). Chosen from among 1,500 assistant prosecutors, Carter was named Assistant Prosecuting Attorney of the Year by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association (2007) and received The Ohio State University Humanities Alumni Award of Distinction the following year. Carter has also received the Springfield Community Award of Excellence and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Gold Star Award. Carter spent decades raising awareness of Black History Month and the African-American experience in the 20th century. He lectures on integration in the sports arena at the University of Drayton, taught criminal justice at Wittenburg University, and has frequently written guest columns in the Springfield newspaper. Now retired, Carter serves on the Clark County Park Board and Clark County Historical Society, coaches football at Springfield High School and tutors language art and history at a local alternative school. He says, “A lot of these students already have probation officers. I have too much urgency to grab a fly rod and go down to the riverbank.”

Claudia Swendseid

Claudia S. Swendseid '78 served 31 years at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis before retiring as the senior vice president in March 2017. During her tenure at the Federal Reserve, Swendseid served as a senior officer on the Reserve’s Financial Services Council and as an overseer of many projects and various departments. Swendseid’s contributions have led to innovation and improvement of many of the Federal Reserve System’s and the U.S. payment system's processes, notably helping to transition much of U.S. payments from paper to electronic/digital form. She also promoted changes that eliminated operational costs, saving the Federal Reserve System millions annually. Swendseid’s work reaches further than the financial sector through her community involvement with United Way, Community Thread, Valley Outreach, Young Life, Feed My Hungry Children and the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable. Swendseid served six years on the board of directors, including two years as board chair, for Solid Ground, a nonprofit social service agency that offers housing, education, development and empowerment services for homeless families. In addition, Swendseid helped establish the Hospitality Center for the Chinese and has volunteered with Women’s Venture and Tubman Family Crisis. She was awarded the 2017 Female Outstanding Volunteer Award for Washington County, Minn, which recognized her for her community involvement through volunteering. She is very active at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN, serving as the chair of the Trinity stewardship team.


2017 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

Dr. Allan Carlson '61

Allan is widely recognized at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) and throughout the world as a leading expert in neutron cross section data development and evaluation. As the foremost U.S. physicist for the standards on effective cross sectional area of the nucleus of an atom, his work is vital for understanding the performance of nuclear power reactors, nuclear defense systems and nuclear medicine applications.  With NIST, he coordinated the Van de Graaff and linear accelerator neutron data programs and a nuclear data measurement program. He has served as a staff member for Gulf General Atomic (1967-72) and the General Atomic Division of General Dynamics (1966-67), and a research assistant for the Department of Physics at the University of Wisconsin (1962-66) and the Argonne National Laboratory (1961-62). Carlson chaired projects for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency's Working Party on International Evaluation Cooperation. Carlson is a member of the American Physical Society, the United States Nuclear Data Program, and has authored more then 100 publications in a wide range of journals. Carlson received his Ph.D. (1966) from the Univeristy of Wisconsin, Madison. Now retired, Carlson works as a NIST contractor, with DOE support, evaluating nuclear data standards that are essential for new libraries such as the European Joint Evaluated Fission and Fusion Files. With this and his involvement in meetings of the European Community, Carlson's work directly impacts the nuclear data needs of the U.S., Europe and Japan.

Karan Armstrong-Friedrich '63

Karan trained under operatic experts Lotte Lehmann, Fritz Zweig and Tilly de Garmo. She gave her debut as Musetta in La bohème at the the San Francisco Opera in 1965, then won the 1966 Western Regional auditions of the Metropolitan Opera New York. Armstrong built her repertoire, primarily in Puccini, Verdi and Wagner lead roles, at the New York City Opera and with many U.S. companies in opera houses across the U.S. In 1974, Armstrong made her European debut as Micaela at the Oper'a du Rhin Strasbourg. By the early 80's she had sung at the Oper'a de Paris, Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Staatsoper Vienna. In 1986, she and her director husband Gotz Friedrich co-founded The American Berlin Opera Foundation Inc., which awards scholarships to American singers wishing to study at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Armstrong has sung in several operatic world premiers, including Gottfried von Einem's Jesu Hochzeit and Siegfried Matthus's Desdomona und ihre Schwestern. She was awarded the Kammersanger, the German honorific title for distinguishes operatic singers (Stutgart, 1985 and Berlin, 1994) and the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Cross of Merit). Celebrated as a primadonna of modern music for her many lead roles in contemporary opera, Armstrong is also recognized as a champion of early 20th century opera. Armstrong gives masterclasses in Europe, Asia and the U.S. and most recently performed a modern version of Rigoletto at the Komische Oper Berlin.

Mary (Sorenson) Ranum '78

Mary is the chair of the board and shareholder at the Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., a Minneapolis headquartered law firm with approximately 275 lawyers. Ranum joined in 1984, following a judicial clerkship with the Minnesota Supreme Court. She became partner at her law firm in 1990 with years doing real estate transactional and debt finance work for major retailers, real estate developers, health care organizations, and lending and educational institutions. In addition to chairing the firm's real estate practice group for more than 10 years and focusing on pro bono work, diversity and associate development, Ranum became the first board chairwoman in 2010, making her one of a few female law firm leaders nationally. Due to Ranum's work, 34% of the partners at her firm are female, a percentage far above national averages. Ranum is also dedicated to hiring and retention of people of color in the Twin Cities legal community. She served on the board of directors of The Advocates for Human Rights, an internationally acclaimed organization that advocates for human rights around the world, and assists OneVillage Partners, a nonprofit that builds self-reliance skills for communities in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Still actively involved with Concordia as a member of its board of regents, Ranum recently co-chaired a task force that explored new ventures for the college. In recognition of her merit, Ranum was made a fellow of the American College of Mortgage Attorneys in 2007 and of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers in 2015. She was noted among the Top Women in Finance in Finance and Commerce (2011) and 25 Industry Leaders in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal (2011), and named the Metropolitan Economic Development Association's Volunteer of the Year in 1997.

Dr. Philip Noss '61

Dr. Philip Noss served more than 40 years in Bible translation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon (ELCC), the United Bible Societies, the Eugene A. Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship of the American Bible Society. He earned a Ph.D. in African languages and literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1969) and taught in that department, the first of its kind in the world. Noss founded the Gbaya Translation Center of the ELCC, serving as its translation exegete, and established undergraduate and postgraduate programs in African languages and literature at the University of Calabar, Nigeria. He then became a translation consultant with the United Bible Societies, with responsibilities for the Bible translation projects in 34 African nations in 200 languages. Of great significance, Noss led an inter confessional translation team whose work culminated in the publication of the Bible (1995), with the Apocrypha (2011), in the Gbaya language of Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

2016 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

Dr. James B. Buhr '67

Dr. James B. Buhr has devoted his life to global influence as a family practice physician for more than 40 years. During his career, he has served hospitals in Chicago, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Africa, Liberia and Cameroon. In 2006, he led a group on behalf of Global Health Ministries to assess the need and feasibility of building a hospital in Central African Republic, a country facing extreme poverty and ongoing violence. He then participated in efforts to build the hospital in Gallo and returned to evaluate the services provided by it. In Valley City, he serves as county health officer/medical director, coroner, and is the primary physician for more than 100 individuals at the Open Door Center, which serves adults and children with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities and mental health needs.

Jean E. Bye '79

Jean Bye has been focused throughout her career at Dotson Iron Castings on building a company that outperforms the competition while creating a culture that values and inspires employees. Today, she is president and CEO of the iron foundry in Mankato, Minn. Among her successes are managing the stress of recession, meeting high demand pressures from U.S. industry giants and launching an Employee Stock Ownership Plan plan for the company. She willingly shares her expertise and experience. In 2014, she initiated a special interest group within the American Foundry Society that mentors and coaches women in the industry. She is the first woman to serve on the society’s executive committee and will be the president of the association in 2018. Additionally, she has been invited to participate in the invitation-only International Foundry Forum twice.

Dr. Karen A. Feste '66

Dr. Karen Feste has contributed greatly to the international relations fields of conflict resolution, terrorism and military intervention. She is professor at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. There she founded and is director of the interdisciplinary Conflict Resolution Institute and is director of its International Security master’s program. She has published numerous articles and books, and has been asked to speak within and outside the U.S. Many of her former students have achieved distinction, including former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and former Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey. She was twice a Fulbright Scholar to Vienna, Austria. She serves on the board for the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and is active in Forward Global Women, which strives to bring peace to troubled areas of the world.

David J. Horazdovsky '78

David Horazdovsky, president and CEO of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, has key passions for innovative care and consumer-focused service. As leader of the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of long-term care, housing and senior services, he emphasizes well-being and improved environments. He joined the society in 1978 and served as an administrator at three locations until 1989, when he became regional director for Minnesota. He was tapped to lead the organization in 2003. In addition to his work with the society, he serves as a board member of a healthcare technology company and a national affordable housing trust company. He represented South Dakota at the 2005 White House Conference on Aging and was a member of an advisory board for the U.S. Department of Labor. He continues to be involved in public policy and advocacy for seniors.

2016 Sent Forth Award Recipients

Amy Kircher '97

Amy Kircher is director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute, a Homeland Security Center of Excellence, where she coordinates a research consortium of experts dedicated to protecting the food system. She is also an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota.  Kircher received a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a Doctor of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She previously worked as an epidemiologist for NORAD – U.S. Northern Command and was an instructor for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Miquette (Denie) McMahon '06

Miquette McMahon worked at a nursing home and a hospital in Detroit Lakes, Minn., for a year after graduation before returning to Haiti to work as a school nurse and teacher. She founded TeacHaiti, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to send children to school in Haiti. After Haiti’s earthquake when many schools in Haiti were destroyed, McMahon opened TeacHaiti School of Hope in Port au Prince.  Currently, TeacHaiti educates more than 350 students through student scholarships. McMahon oversees every aspect of TeacHaiti and spends much of her time advocating and fundraising for TeacHaiti throughout the United States.

2015 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

Paul D. Erickson '74

Paul Erickson, Circle Pines, Minn., is a sports administrator whose passions have benefitted cities across Minnesota. After Concordia, he taught in Australia. He then served as Concordia’s director of student activities from 1976-82. While at Concordia, he led two Arctic ski expeditions – one in Greenland and another in Lappland with two blind skiers. He was vice president of public relations for the Sons of Norway from 1982-86. In 1986, the governor appointed him executive director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, a position he held for 27 years until he retired. During his tenure, he established the largest youth sporting event in the U.S. and led the development of $300 million of sports facilities in Minnesota, including the nation’s largest amateur sports facility in the nation.

Dr. Alan R. Hopeman '42

Dr. Alan Hopeman, Minneapolis, Minn., served in the U.S. Army as an enlisted medic and Medical Service Corps officer during World War II. Completing medical school in 1950, he returned to the army as a medical officer and served until 1970. His leadership was widely recognized in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. His second career was in academic surgery as professor of surgery at the universities of Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. At each of these medical schools, he received the Golden Apple Award for teaching from the students. In 1985, he was awarded professor emeritus of surgery from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center based at Denver General Hospital. He provided extraordinary public relations to the hospital community and gave freely of his time to his patients, medical students and residents.

Dr. Craig J. Lambrecht '83

Dr. Craig Lambrecht, Bismarck, N.D., is responsible for operations for Sanford Health west region, which includes several facilities in western North Dakota. He became president/CEO of Medcenter One, Bismarck, in 2010 and guided the health system’s merger with Sanford Health. He is board certified in emergency medicine. He was a 30-year member of the North Dakota National Guard and served two wartime deployments to Iraq. During his second deployment, Lambrecht built up a struggling pediatric burn clinic, the only one in Iraq, by gathering thousands of dollars of donated supplies and cash donations. He retired from the National Guard as a colonel. He earned degrees in international relations and biology from Concordia and a medical degree from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He holds three master’s degrees: health services administration, public health/occupational medicine and business administration.

Dr. Howard O. Nornes '53

Dr. Howard Nornes, Fort Collins, Colo., graduated with a degree in biology. He obtained a doctorate in neuroscience from Purdue University and did postdoctoral research at the University of Lund, Sweden, and the Max Planck Institute, Göttingen, Germany. He is professor emeritus of neuroscience at Colorado State University and continues to teach courses in neuroplasticity of the adult brain in their continuing education program. His major research interest was the development and regeneration of the nervous system, work that promotes healing and recovery of the function of the spinal cord and brain. Through the years he has been involved in community programs to promote peace and social justice. 

2015 Sent Forth Award Recipients

Kristi Rendahl '97

Kristi Rendahl is the organizational development advisor of the Center for Victims of Torture in St. Paul, advising centers for victims of torture around the world. She founded Prairie Talks, a speaker series that brings national and international speakers to her hometown of Rugby, N.D., and she is a regular columnist for The Armenian Weekly.  Rendahl earned a Master of Arts degree in nonprofit management and a doctorate in public administration from Hamline University. She previously worked with Habitat for Humanity International and served in the Peace Corps in Armenia, where she lived for five years. She currently lives in St. Paul.

Mike Solberg '95

Mike Solberg is president and chief executive officer of Bell State Bank & Trust. He has helped the company grow to be one of the largest independently owned banks in the country. Bell State Bank & Trust’s culture, including its commitment to staff and community, has been highlighted by media outlets from "CBS Evening News" to People magazine. As president of Bell State Bank & Trust, Solberg launched the bank’s “Pay It Forward” project, providing every full-time employee with $1,000 each year to give to individuals, families or organizations in need.  Solberg also provides leadership to several organizations. He has served as campaign chair for the United Way of Cass-Clay, board chair for the Trollwood Performing Arts School and is currently on the board of Prairie Heights Community Church, The Bush Foundation, The Guthrie Theater and serves on the Concordia College Board of Regents. He and his wife, Charleen, live in Fargo with their three children.

2014 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

John Ahlquist '63

John Ahlquist, Walnut Creek, Calif., has been a certified health physicist for 41 years and a leader in applied and environmental health physics, environmental restoration, decontamination and decommissioning of nuclear facilities and sites, emergency response, and management. He began his career at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1965 where he was involved in the testing of nuclear rocket reactors for deep space exploration.  He was a nuclear safeguards inspector in Vienna, Austria, for the International Atomic Energy Agency, and was a director for environmental restoration and for environment, safety and health with the Department of Energy. He concluded his career in management oversight of three national laboratories operated by the University of California. He continues to work toward improvements in restoration of nuclear sites.

Sandra Cartie '82

Sandra Cartie, Princeton, N.J., is senior vice president and chief audit executive of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Cartie has been named by Treasury & Risk magazine as an outstanding women leader in finance and is widely acknowledged for “being a change agent, successfully building focused teams, creating leaders, implementing rapid transitions and adding value to improve operations.” Cartie is a leader in the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and finds gratification in nurturing, motivating and developing others, while creating a culture of inclusion to maximize each team member’s potential. Cartie created a strategy that engages Bristol-Myers Squibb employees around the world in sustainability efforts by founding the company’s “Go Green” initiative to preserve the environment, which contributed to the company’s No. 1 ranking on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Best Corporate Citizens” listing in 2012 to 2014.

Dr. Roger Leopold '62

Dr. Roger Leopold, Fargo, N.D., has been a research entomologist in the USDA Agricultural Research Service for more than 44 years and is recognized internationally as a leading authority in the areas of insect reproduction and cryopreservation. His research, vision and leadership has provided the foundation for the current appreciation that insect cryopreservation and dormancy technology is an area of critical importance to providing safe and stable insect control systems that aid global food production. Leopold is widely considered to be among the top one percent of his scientific peers. He has written over 150 publications, including journal articles, book chapters, scientific proceedings, technical reports and abstracts. Further, he was the recipient of the Sir Frederick McMaster Fellowship for Distinguished Foreign Scientists.

Vernon Tolo, M.D. '64

Vernon Tolo, M.D., Pasadena, Calif., is chief emeritus of the Children’s Orthopaedic Center at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, where he was orthopaedic chief for 22 years, following 11 years as chief of pediatric orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins. He is the John C. Wilson, Jr., Professor of Orthopaedics at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California. His primary clinical interests are spinal deformity, skeletal dysplasia, cerebral palsy, and pediatric trauma. He has mentored and been the role model for many younger orthopaedic surgeons.  He has been president of the Scoliosis Research Society, the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 

2014 Sent Forth Award Recipients

Roxana Saberi '97

Roxana Saberi is an author, journalist, inspirational speaker and human rights advocate best known for her reporting and imprisonment in Iran during 2009. After worldwide attention was given to her plight, Saberi was released and she wrote of her experiences in the book “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran.” She has worked with Reporters Without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, and United4Iran. She received the NCAA Award of Valor for demonstrating uncommon bravery and courage in the face of grave personal danger. At Concordia, Saberi played soccer and graduated summa cum laude. Saberi has a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University and a second master’s in international relations from the University of Cambridge. She has reported for NPR, BBC, ABC Radio, Fox News and Al Jazeera America.

Richard Sommer '00

Richard Sommer is a member of the award-winning cast of “Mad Men,” a cable television drama that centers on the lives of power-hungry men and women in the New York advertising scene in the 1960s. Sommer has also been featured in “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Law and Order,” and several national commercials and theatrical roles. He is a volunteer with Operation Homefront, an organization committed to helping spouses of enlisted men and women get an education, as well as helping wounded warriors upon their return home. Sommer sang in The Concordia Choir and played the lead role in the Concordia Theatre production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has a master's degree in acting from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Sommer lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Virginia, and children, Beatrice and Patrick.

2013 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

Murrae N. Freng '46

Murrae Freng, Plymouth, Minn., has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a band and choral conductor in Brooten, Minn., and Alexandria, Minn., high schools. He served as executive director of the Minnesota State High School League for 15 years where he guided the activities of high school athletics, music, speech, and drama. He was a leader in instituting gender equity and the evolution of high school women's athletics in Minnesota. He is a charter member of the halls of fame of the Minnesota Music Educators Association and the Minnesota State High School League, and is the recipient of the F. Melius Christiansen Memorial Award. Freng inspired countless students to pursue excellence, and he is widely respected for working for the betterment of others. Watch Video

George C. Halvorson Jr. '68

George Halvorson, Sausalito, Calif., is chairman and chief executive office of Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest nonprofit health plan and hospital system serving more than 9 million members and generating $50 billion in annual revenue. He has chaired the World Economic Forum's Health Governors meetings in Davos, Switzerland, and is the recipient of the Louis Sullivan Award for outstanding leadership in healthcare quality and the American Hospital Association's 2013 Award of Honor. He is the author of several guidebooks on healthcare reform, and he has served as an advisor to foreign governments on issues of health policy and financing. Halvorson previously held management positions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and HealthPartners in Minneapolis. Watch Video

Morris L. Lanning '66

Morrie Lanning served Concordia College for nearly 40 years as the primary advocate for students. He pioneered the development of a student leadership program that flourishes today. He made sure that students are "at the table" for discussions on curriculum changes, long-range planning and budget development. He also has lived a life of public service, including serving as major of Moorhead, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and on numerous boards and commissions for the state and region. He is known as a consummate practitioner of the deliberative process with a sure grasp of the issues at hand. Most recently, he sponsored legislation that enabled state participation in building a new multi-use Vikings stadium. Watch Video

Karen (Lattu) Polzin '77

Karen Polzin enjoyed a successful 33-year career at Cargill where she held many high-level leadership roles within the controller's organization. During her tenure, she was the controller of their global grain and oilseed businesses and a lead controller over many North American businesses. At the end of her career Polzin helped lead a team focused on improving global business processes and simplifying software application at Cargill. She is a longstanding volunteer leader at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center in Minneapolis where she is revered for her considerable skills in nonprofit governance, finance and strategic management. She has also served in a variety of capacities on behalf of the college as a member of the advisory board for the Offutt School of Business. Watch Video

2013 Sent Forth Award Recipient

Alan Bjerga '95

The 2013 Sent Forth alumni award recognizes Alan Bjerga '95 who, through his example of career dedication and global impact, exemplifies the mission of Concordia College. Bjerga is the author of the book "Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest." He covers agricultural policy for Bloomberg News, served as one of the youngest presidents of the National Press Club, and is past president of the North American Agricultural Journalists. In 2012, he joined the faculty of Georgetown University as an adjunct instructor. He has been recognized for his work on hunger and agriculture by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the New York Press Club, the Kansas Press Association, the  North American Agricultural Journalists, and the Overseas Press Club. 
Bjerga grew up on a farm near the town of Motley, Minnesota. A graduate of Concordia College and the University of Minnesota, Bjerga began his career with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and also reported for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and The Witchita Eagle. In 2012, the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored him with its "Above the Fold" award for outstanding achievement by alumni under 40. Along with his frequent appearances on Bloomberg Television, he has also been a contestant on "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". He has also competed for the standup comedy title of "DC's Funniest Journalist." 

2012 AAA Recipients

Dr. Thomas Berquist '67

Dr. Thomas Berquist, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has served in the highest leadership and teaching positions at the Mayo Clinics, and is one of the founding doctors who pioneered the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville site, where he established the first residency program in radiology and chaired the radiology department. Berquist has distinguished himself as an internationally and nationally recognized diagnostic radiologist with specialty expertise in musculoskeletal imaging. He is the author of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles in medical journals and has written several radiology textbooks. He is credited with providing the vision and direction for all educational activity at Mayo, where he is revered as a model educational leader.

Ronald Gadberry '58

In his 45-year teaching and coaching career, Ronald Gadberry, Fargo, N.D., influenced young lives as a model of integrity and good character. He built perennial powerhouse wrestling programs at Moorhead and Hillsboro high schools, and has the rare distinction of being chosen to coaching halls of fame in two states – Minnesota and North Dakota. A man of faith, Gadberry is well respected and well known for building deep and life-changing mentoring relationships with hundreds of students who credit him for being a lasting influence in their lives.

Dr. Patricia Kubow '89

Dr. Patricia Kubow, Bowling Green, Ohio, has built an international reputation as a leading voice in collegiate education. The themes of citizenship and democratic education has been at the heart of her work. Kubow is an education professor at Bowling Green State University, where she has built close contacts and associates in all corners of the globe, and her national and international networks continue to grow. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Achievement Award by the United States Agency for International Development. She is a member of the 1988 Concordia women’s basketball national championship team, a two-time academic All-American and a member of the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame.

Allan Stokke '62

Allan Stokke, Newport Beach, Calif., is generally regarded as one of the finest criminal defense attorneys in southern California and one of only a handful to be included in the “Best Lawyers in America” listing. Stokke has co-authored legal textbooks and is a frequent speaker on legal and ethical issues. During his 47-year legal career he has earned a solid reputation for high integrity, strong work ethic and as a dedicated community volunteer. Ever true to his rural upbringing, he returns to his family’s Red River Valley grain farm each summer to help with harvest. 

2012 Sent Forth Recipient

Joanna Thiele '97 

Joanna is a registered nurse specializing in labor and delivery at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minn. She is the co-founder and former board member of the nonprofit Haiti Mission Project, which brings much-needed relief to the impoverished island nation.  Since 2005, Joanna has been both missionary and fundraiser for the Haiti Mission Project. Her efforts have helped build an orphanage, medical clinic and food storage building, in addition to helping countless individuals. Joanna’s work in Haiti exemplifies her sharing of God’s hope and love with those who feel hopeless, all the while making enduring friendships. She is about to embark on her 15th volunteer trip there.  After narrowly escaping injury in the 2010 earthquake, Joanna helped organize a field hospital and personally staffed the pharmacy, working each day until the job was done. The director of a maternity center in Port-au-Prince recalls Joanna’s 16-hour workdays and her calm, level headed, kind and affectionate care to the hundreds of wounded.  Joanna’s response to the call to serve is an inspiration to others who are moved by her vision for helping the people of Haiti. Because of her, many others have volunteered in Haiti and have fallen in love with the people of that beleaguered country.  Joanna’s volunteer work has included mentoring high school and college students, food packing at the Feed My Starving Children program, and hospice. In recognition of her volunteerism, she has received the Park Nicollet Health Services Community Service award and the Sarah Harrison Knight award.

2011 AAA Recipients

Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis ‘71

Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis, Oakton, Va., graduated from Concordia with a burning desire to utilize the language skills he learned in French and Russian. Then Uncle Sam stepped in and Ennis was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps. Over the next 37 years, he served as a translator on the Washington- Moscow “hotline” for President Reagan; as a liaison to the Soviet Forces in Potsdam, East Germany; as an inspector on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty; as an attache in Moscow; and finally as the deputy director of operations at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Clint Hill ‘54

Clint Hill, Arlington, Va., was a Secret Service agent assigned to the White House and served Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He was in the motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, assigned to protect Mrs. Kennedy when President Kennedy was assassinated. He is credited with saving her life. After leaving Concordia, Hill entered the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence agent. He was discharged in 1957 and entered the Secret Service. Hill’s career and actions have been recognized worldwide. He retired in 1975 as an assistant director. He and coauthor Lisa McCubbin are writing a book titled “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” which will be published in spring 2012 by Simon & Schuster.

Estelle (Johnson) Spottiswoode ’46

Estelle (Johnson) Spottiswoode, London, has dedicated her life to music and the arts. After Concordia, she attended Julliard Summer School where she studied with opera star Maggie Teyte. Teyte recommended that Spottiswood study the Jean de Reske method of singing with Grace Vernon. When Vernon returned to the U.K, Spottiswood followed her. She has given numerous recitals and sung in operas, including the second televised opera broadcast in the U.K. At age 70, she focused on drawing and painting in her studio and gave her first one-woman show two years later. She celebrated her 85th birthday with a recital of Grieg, Debussy and Hahn.

Dr. James Westgard ‘63

Dr. James Westgard, Madison, Wis., is co-founder and principal in Westgard QC Inc., a small business providing tools, technology and training for laboratory quality management. He is also an emeritus professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. His life work has been improving the accuracy and precision of clinical laboratory work used to make what can be life and death decisions.

2011 Sent Forth Recipient

Sara Meslow '92

Meslow is the founder and executive director of Camp Odayin. As a lifelong camper and heart patient, she discovered her calling in founding the only camp in the Midwest for children with heart disease. Meslow has a bachelor's degree in social work and communication, as well as a master's in youth development leadership from the University of Minnesota. She served as an elementary school social worker in Forest Lake, Minn., and volunteered at a summer camp for heart patients in California before her mother suggested she start her own in Minnesota. Camp Odayin, founded in 2001, serves more than 350 people annually. Meslow believes in the positive impact summer camp can have on everyone, especially children with special health concerns.

2010 AAA Recipients

Virgil Syverson '41

Virgil Syverson is widely known as "Mr. Music" in western North Dakota. In nearly six decades of teaching, he has been a positive influence for thousands of students and an inspiring role model for countless music educators. Syverson has been recognized nationally for his contributions to the music world, receiving the Legion of Honor medal from the John Philip Sousa Foundation and the lifetime achievement award from the Phi Beta Mu music fraternity. He was band director at Williston Public Schools for 39 years, the founder and director of the Williston Cowboys Drum and Bugle Corps for 54 years, and 42 years conducting the Williston City Band. 

David M. Anderson '67

Following a distinguished career in the Air Force, Anderson is a Boeing 767 First Officer flying international routes for United Airlines. He is the founder of the Second Sight for Sore Eyes charity, leading efforts to gather used eyeglasses for free distribution in Thailand. His efforts have resulted in the delivery of tens of thousands of eyeglasses to needy adults and school children. A 23-year Air Force veteran, Anderson served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a C-130 reconnaissance and special operations navigator. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals, the USAF Commendation medal and two Meritorious Service medals. 

Carol Ann Olson '74, M.D., Ph.D.

Carol Ann Olson is senior vice president for Pharmaceutical Development and chief medical officer at Immtech Pharmaceuticals. As one of few women in top management positions in the medical and scientific field, she is following a mission framed through a life of scientific and medical inquiry, teaching, mentoring and service to others. Olson's focus is on the development of new oral medicines to treat neglected diseases, including malaria and African sleeping sickness, which are fatal parasitic diseases exclusively affecting rural populations in Africa. She organizes clinical trials for drug testing in central Africa, Asia and South America. 

Kelby Krabbenhoft '80

Kelby Krabbenhoft is president and CEO of Sanford Health-MeritCare, a $2.1 billion organization that is the nation's largest nonprofit, integrated rural health care system. His vision sets direction for 18,000 employees, 27 hospitals, 174 clinics, 33 long-term care facilities and 65,000 health plan members in 120 communities across the upper Midwest. The system features physician-hospital service integration and includes centers of excellence in health care delivery and innovative research, education and health plan programs. Krabbenhoft established the vision for T. Denny Sanford's $400 million gift, the largest gift ever given to a health care organization in America. The gift supports the implementation of the Sanford Initiatives, which includes global children's clinics, research centers and finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. He previously served as president and CEO of Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D., and in leadership roles at several other health organizations. He received the Modern Healthcare Up and Comers Award in 1994.

2009 AAA Recipients

Glory A. Monson '58

Glory Monson has been the founder, artistic director and creative force behind Village Arts Inc., for more than 40 years. She is a community builder, an exemplar of excellence, a versatile artist and a motivator to generations of young people. Village Arts programs include musicals, children's theatre and an orchestra with musicians ranging in age from grade school students to senior citizens. 

Olaf Storaasli '64

Olaf Storaasli is a senior research scientist in computational mechanics at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, following thirty-five years at NASA. He is an internationally known expert on parallel methods for structural mechanics on high-performance computers. Storaasli has authored more than 80 works on computational structural mechanics, has received fellowships for postdoctoral research in Edinburgh, Trondheim and Oslo, Norway, and is a lecturer at research institutions and universities in this country and abroad. 

David Johnson '64 

David Johnson was the senior pastor at Hope Lutheran Church and the visionary behind the establishment of the Hope South campus in Fargo. He was vice chair of the Billy Graham Area Wide Crusade, and a member of the DUI Task Force, Teens and Parents Task Force and the Human Research Ethics Committee, all in Fargo. Johnson is widely known for his ability to create a vision and then organize people and tasks to achieve it. 

James Jaranson '69

James Jaranson is a board-certified psychiatrist who is also certified in public health and general preventive medicine. He is semi-retired from active practice of psychiatry in Minnesota and consults in the field of rehabilitating politically motivated torture survivors. He co-chairs the Section of the Psychological Consequences of Torture and Persecution of the World Psychiatric Association and has represented the United States on the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. He writes and lectures extensively on the care of refugee patients and torture survivors.

2008 AAA Recipients

Ordean Oen '49 

Ordean Oen is retired from a distinguished 31-year career as a research physicist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His work centered on the development of fission and fusion energy sources. Oen has turned his hobby of making wild fruit into jelly and wine as a valued source of financial support for the Park River (N.D.) Lutheran Bible Camp, and his family and grandchildren continue to participate in Concordia Language Village programs.

Dianne (Larson) Kimm '60 

Dianne Kimm is manager of the Lutheran Social Services refugee program, where she has worked tirelessly on behalf of refugees from Somalia, Bosnia and Russia. She has assisted with refugee resettlement in the region, helping with basic housing, language education, legal issues and achieving citizenship. She is a community leader who has served the Pelican Rapids School Board for 30 years. 

Charley Johnson '72

Charley Johnson is a well-known television newscaster, who is general manager of KVLY and KXJB TV in Fargo. He previously worked as a news director at both stations and also in radio. He is considered one of the Red River Valley's most recognizable and trusted newsmen. He served as president of the Trinity Lutheran church council, on the Concordia National Alumni Board and has taught broadcast journalism and news writing.

2007 AAA Recipients

Darwin Gorder '61

Darwin Gorder is vice president for development at Oak Grove Lutheran School, Fargo, where he has worked for 42 years. Prior to working in development, Gorder served as principal and athletic director for 27 years and instructor and coach for 12 years. He serves on numerous community and church committees, including Bethany Homes Board of Trustees, the Metro Tournament committee and church council at Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo. Gorder is a member of C-400 and the Letterman's Club. 

Dr. Rein Uritam '61

Rein Uritam is the graduate program director and professor of physics at Boston College, where he has worked for 39 years. He was chair of the physics department for 14 years. Uritam was resident of the Association of Marshall Scholars from 1991 to 2001, nationally promoting the scholarship program and serving with the British Ambassador on the national selection committee. He was knighted in 2002 for his service with the association. Uritam is also very involved with Dover Church. 

Dr. Menkir Esayas '64 

Dr. Menkir Esayas is a regional director and area counselor for Africa and the Middle East through the International Lutheran Laymen's League, St. Louis, where he has worked for 14 years. He previously worked as executive director of Africa Church Information Services in Nairobi, Kenya, executive secretary for communication services for The Lutheran World Federation and executive director of Radio Voice of the Gospel in Addis Ababa. Esayas has served as a World Health Organization consultant.  

Ingrid Christiansen '66 

Ingrid Christiansen is a capital mitigation specialist, assisting people facing the death sentence in hopes they will receive a lighter sentence. She previously worked at Associated Colleges of the Midwest Urban Studies Program for 31 years, Genesis House for Women in Prostitution and as chair of the board of the Division for Church in Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for eight years. Christiansen is involved in church and community organizations, along with serving as a Concordia guest lecturer numerous times.

2006 AAA Recipients 

Dr. James B. Hofrenning ‘50 

James Hofrenning returned to Concordia after active duty in the Pacific Theater during World War II and completed his degree in 1950. He went on to receive divinity degrees from Luther Seminary and Union Theological Seminary, and his doctorate from New York University. For 10 years he served as senior pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., before returning to Concordia in 1964 to teach religion and ethics. Hofrenning left an indelible imprint on Concordia College. He founded the annual Faith, Reason and World Affair Symposium that opens each academic year by probing timely issues; F/M Communiversity, which annually brings learning to all ages in the community; and the Charis Ecumenical Center that is a source of continuing education for pastors and lay ministry. His faculty peers bestowed Hofrenning with the Reuel and Alma Wiji Distinguished Professor award in 1991 for his influential role in bringing continuing education to adults and lay clergy in the region. He was also recognized with the inaugural Fargo Temple Beth El Humanitarian Award in 1984 for his community service. But it was in his role as teacher where Hofrenning achieved his greatest calling. Another legendary educator at Concordia, Dr. Walther Prausnitz, recalled that Hofrenning possessed the revelations of a genuine, concerned, experienced and knowledgeable human being. “I see Jim as representing what the college promises to its students: a life filled with knowledge but committed to service.” Following retirement in 1993, Jim and Ing Hofrenning moved to Minneapolis where they are active in church activities and Jim continues to write. Lutheran University Press published his latest book, “Easter People in a Good Friday World: Making Wise Moral Decisions,” in 2004. 

The Rev. Raymond C. Siegle ‘56 

For much of his career, the Rev. Ray Siegle was pastor at Sharon Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, N.D. He also served parishes in Nome, Fingal, Rugby and Lisbon, N.D. Throughout his ministry, Siegle involved himself in the broader church and community. He served on the Churchwide Council of the ELCA at the time of the change from the ALC, he was a member of the Altru Health Systems board in Grand Forks, and chaired the Lutheran Social Services board of North Dakota. He was a widely known advocate and resource for Alcoholics Anonymous and was honored numerous times for his caring service to chemically dependent people. 
Siegle said Concordia prepared him well for his ministry. “I believe God calls us all to find ways by which we can minister to people, both in their time of need but also during their lives. In all kinds of ways, God asks us to put the gospel into question. I saw it happen with my teachers at Concordia and then in the communities where I served. You relate to people wherever they are.” The Red River Flood of 1997 brought devastation and suffering to Grand Forks with raging water and fire. In the midst of this, Siegle was a steady source of solace, support and hope to all of Grand Forks. He helped affected families meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs, held families together and helped them begin their path to wholeness. ELCA Bishop Rick Foss says, “Ray’s remarkable stamina and undaunted spirit were among God’s best gifts to the Grand Forks community in the years following the flood. While Ray was a marvelous pastor in almost any circumstance, the crucible of the flood revealed his great depth and capacity.” Siegle and his wife, Ruth, moved to Moorhead in 2002 where he served as interim pastor at Hope Lutheran in Fargo and Trinity Lutheran in Moorhead. He passed away in June 2006. 

Richard H. Solberg ‘68 

With steady support and encouragement of his wife, JoEllen, Dick Solberg has generously committed his time and business expertise to numerous leadership positions on behalf of the college. Personal stewardship is important to Dick and JoEllen, who passionately believe in the mission of the church. They have made a personal commitment to two ministries they strongly believe in: Concordia and Red Willow Bible Camp, where they worked as counselors during their college years. “Concordia and Red Willow help people grow in their faith,” Says Dick. “Our goal is to help both these places that we love so dearly to remain viable for future generations.” Upon his graduation in 1968, Solberg went to work at First National Bank in Grand Forks, N.D., and Citizens State Bank in his hometown of Finley, N.D. In 1982 he founded State Bank of Fargo, now named State Bank & Trust. From a modest beginning in a north Fargo strip mall, State Bank & Trust has grown to 11 locations with assets totaling $1.4 billion, making it the largest independently owned bank in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. 

Phyllis E. Zimmerman ‘59 

Following her graduation from Thiel College in 1956, Phyllis Zimmerman enrolled at Concordia to study vocal performance from legendary conductor Paul J. Christiansen, completing her degree in 1959. Zimmerman says she learned the “ethics of excellence” at Concordia because at every rehearsal the choir was asked to give the highest level of artistic expression possible. “Great music was happening every day,” she says. “For me, it was a lesson in living and I wanted to live my life in those creative moments.” She first taught high school music in her native state of Pennsylvania before becoming the choral director at Santa Barbara (Calif.) High School, where she taught from 1969 to 1995. Noted for their awe-inspiring excellence, her choirs toured Europe several times and performed in Romania by invitation of the U.S. State Department. Following her retirement, she founded the Canticle A Cappella Choir, a community that has recorded several CDs and performed on National Public Radio and NBC-TV. Today she is an active composer and arranger of sacred music. Through her distinguished career as a choral conductor, Zimmerman has become one of the most beloved residents of Santa Barbara, Calif. “She is a true educator, a gateway and enabler, an instiller of confidence and a provoker of excellence,” says one devoted member of her community choir. As another admirer says, “Phyllis continued to lead an ‘examined’ life. This is a woman who epitomizes grace, elegance of spirit, command of her art, and utmost integrity in the pursuit of excellence and beauty.” 

2005 AAA Recipients

Dr. J. Robert Hanson ‘51 

J. Robert Hanson grew up in Osakis, Minn., the son of a coronet player in the Ringling Brothers Circus Band who was also a furniture dealer and undertaker. Hanson planned to take over the family business, but as a student he decided to make music his career and switched his major from business to music. “That’s the path that took me on my life’s work.” That path has led him to the principal trumpet’s chair with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, conducting the Concordia College Band for eight years, conducting the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra for 16 years, and founding and conducting the Concordia College Orchestra from 1967 until his retirement in 1995. “My career is a long list of ‘ah has,’ but that’s the way music is,” says Hanson. Some of his standout memories include performing the annual Christmas Concert, working with world renowned soloists with the F-M Symphony, and performing his composition, “To God Alone the Glory,” commissioned for Concordia’s Centennial celebration. His proudest achievement was building the Concordia Orchestra from the ground up, including taking it on its first European tour in 1986. Hanson continues to compose today, using a computer to test his ideas or to rework his older manuscripts. He also continues to teach trumpet and brass instruments part time, and this fall will return to campus to conduct the orchestra during Bruce Houhlum’s sabbatical. Hanson and his wife, Lois ’51, who retired from Minnesota Public Radio in 1995, now reside in downtown Minneapolis where they frequently attend concerts and recitals. 

Judith K. Siegle ‘84 

Judy Siegle’s book, “Living Without Limits: 10 Keys to Unlocking the Champion in You,” tells how she has turned tragedy into triumph. It is a story that inspires people to look beyond their limitations. “It’s my story,” says Siegle. “I live with confidence, hope and joy every day even though I have this loss.” In a split second, she went from being a star high school athlete to a quadriplegic. Though the healing continues, she relies on her faith in God and the strength of her family to bring her to her new reality. Her personal motto became, and continues to be, “although the game may change, the game will go on.” 

“My time at Concordia were years of huge transition in my life,” says Siegle. “The love of God, the help and love of the Concordia family and their support and encouragement for me made a difference. Concordia never said ‘no’ tome or said I couldn’t do something. Whether it was letting me live in a freshmen dorm, or making a room accessible for my wheelchair, Concordia accepted me just as I was. Concordia was the family God put me with during my years of transition. She is the national record holder for women’s wheelchair racing for 400, 800, 1500 and 5000 meters; she has twice represented the United States at the Paralympics; she was named the 2000 USA Wheelchair Track & Field female athlete of the year, 2002 Healthcare Professional of the Year, 2002 YWCA Woman of the Year and North Dakota Disabled Citizen; and she was elected to the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame and the Concordia College Board of Regents. Siegle is a community disability specialist at MeritCare Health System in Fargo. She is actively involved in Wheels for the World, collecting, restoring and delivering wheelchairs and walkers to more than 50 countries, and she is the founder of the disability ministry at Hope Lutheran Church. 

Dayton E. Soby ‘61 

Dayton Soby recently completed 33 years as a partner in the Rider Bennet law firm of Minneapolis (140 attorneys). Before that, this political science major, participated in the Washington Semester, graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge (and future Supreme Court Justice) Harry Blackmun. He has been a three-term president of Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Vally, Minn., chaired the Fairview Southdale Hospital Board of Trustees, served on the boards of the Fairview Health System, Luther Seminary Foundation, Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota and other organizations, and was president of the Concordia Alumni Association and the found of the C-400 Life Endowment Fund. Recently, Soby was a finalist, along with another Concordia alum, for the presidency of Luther College. 

“My career is a long list of doing things I’d never done before. I simply tried to do whatever I thought I should be doing, and apparently it eventually added up. The people at Concordia made kids believe they could make difference. It was an important lesson. Concordia prepared us to go out and do. The college has a good understanding of the doctrine of vocation. Concordia, like my family, believes in service and that’s how we were nurtured. I also think Concordia is innovative and entrepreneurial. Its people are willing to try new things and pursue creative opportunities. There is a spirit of purpose at Concordia that influences the affairs of the world as the college’s mission declares we ought to do.” 

Dr. Roger L. Gilbertson ‘59

“Concordia was responsible for instilling in me the values system that has sustained me throughout my life,” says Dr. Roger Gilbertson, president and chief executive officer of MeritCare Health System in Fargo, N.D. “The college grounded me in a way that made me comfortable in the world, and made me realize I could do things I didn’t know or believe I could do.” 

After graduation, Gilbertson became a radiologist and in 1993 he was elected by his peers to preside over the complicated merger of Fargo Clinic and St. Luke’s Hospital into MeritCare, the largest healthcare provider in the region. Gilbertson’s fellow physicians and community leaders felt he was ideal for the task because he “brings precise focus to issues” and is “able to make difficult decisions with great understanding.” Gilbertson is known to hold strong opinions, but is a willing listener and a good communicator. Others say he is a visionary but practical, and his leadership style is participatory. Those characteristics were summoned by the Board of Regents in 2003 to lead the search for a new president during a crucial time for the college. 

“I thought we needed to be proactive and aggressive,” recalls Gilbertson. “We needed to seek out the candidates we wanted to see come to Concordia, and we needed to tell the story of Concordia not just from the standpoint of our place in higher education, but speak of our overall excellence – that students are valued here – and that there is great support from faculty and alumni.” A standout high school athlete, Gilbertson was recruited by legendary football coach Jake Christiansen to play quarterback and run his intricate offense. “I had already decided on trying for a career in medicine, but my family didn’t have the resources for a college education,” says Gilbertson. “Jake gave me the opportunity to come to Concordia, and with the college’s excellent reputation for medical school preparation, I couldn’t have been more excited.” 

2004 AAA Recipients

Richard L. Torgerson ‘64

President of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, Torgerson grew up on a wheat farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. After graduating from Concordia in biology, he earned his master’s degree in entomology and doctorate in entomology and zoology at Washington State University. He then taught biology at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, and at Texas Lutheran College in Seguin. After 10 years at Texas Lutheran, Torgerson’s career concentration in administration began when he became vice president for academic affairs and dean of Baker University, Baldwin City, Kansas. He took a similar position at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where he was appointed academic dean, vice president and later, acting president. Seven years later, Torgerson became vice president for development at Wartburg, before joining Gustavus Adolphus, where he assumed the same position. He became Luther’s president in 1999.

Gordon L. Eid ‘66

Eid has had the opportunity to be an active ambassador for Concordia in his years as senior vice president and general counsel for American Express Financial Advisors in Minneapolis and in retirement.  After receiving his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1969, Eid joined IDS Financial Services (now American Express Financial Advisors), where he spent most of his career.  A highly respected businessman and devoted man of faith, Eid is a long-time member of Calvary Lutheran Church of Golden Valley, MN.  There, he has served on the early childhood committee, the outreach committee and the church council.  He is a member of the Higher Education Study Committee of the Minnesota League of Citizens, formed at the request of Gov. Tim Pawlenty to make recommendations for supporting higher education in Minnesota. A member of the Foundation Board at Luther Seminary, Eid is also a former member and chair of the Concordia Board of Regents.

Judge John R. Tunheim ‘75

Judge John Tunheim is one of seven United States District Court judges in Minnesota. During his career, he has traveled around the world and to Concordia to share his knowledge and experience of the judicial system.  Tunheim received a law degree from the University of Minnesota School of Law after graduating summa cum laude from Concordia in 1975.  During the early years of his career, he gained recognition as a staff assistant for U.S. Senator Hubert H Humphrey, a law clerk for Senior U.S. District Judge Earl R. Wilson, and as an attorney at Oppenheimer, Wolff, Foster, Shepard & Donnelly.  It was then that Tunheim embarked on a decade of distinguished service as Assistant Attorney General, Solicitor General and Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Minnesota.  At the request of the State Department and Justice Department, Tunheim assisted the United Nations in establishing a judicial system in Kosovo and Yugoslavia.  He has also worked to open government information to the public. Appointed by President Clinton in 1993 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1994, Tunheim served as chair of a federal agency that opened the classified files on the assassination of President Kennedy. Tunheim has served as president of Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN, as a member of the Minnesota Synod’s executive board and on the ELCA St. Paul synod Council.

Dr. Susan M. Vitalis ‘83

Dr. Susan Vitalis has frequently put herself in the face of danger during her career as a medical missionary. Whether in Kenya, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Bosnia, or Rwanda, she has confronted her fears with a strength and confidence she attributes to her faith. Vitalis has worked a short-term medical missionary for Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization, since the early 1990’s. Vitalis’ calling was redirected after a mission trip to Bosnia. Because of a serious knee injury, she returned to the United States where she learned that medical missionary work in disaster relief was no longer in her future.  In 1999, she became the project administrator for the Samaritan’s Purse Children’s Heart Project. The project brings children in need of heart surgery from Bosnia, Kosovo and Mongolia to the United States where they benefit from the donated services of a hospital, host church and host family. She has made several campus visits to relate her experiences, speaking in chapel as well as at the Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium. 

2003 AAA Recipients

Rev. Carl Lee ‘52

Carl Lee was born and raised on a farm near Badger, MN.  After he graduated with honors from Concordia, he enrolled at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.  He was ordained in 1956 and served congregations in Big Sandy and Box Elder, MT for five years.  He accepted a call to be Concordia’s first campus pastor and began his ministry there in August 1961.  In 1968-69 he was granted a leave of absence to study pastoral care and counseling.  Returning to Concordia in 1969 he was named acting director of counseling and began teaching a few classes in addition to his pastoral duties. Pastor Carl was one of the founding members of the Fargo-Moorhead’s crisis HOTLINE. He served two terms on the ELCA’s National Board of Appeals and has served on numerous mental health and social issues boards and committees. Carl married Ann Teigen ’54, an elementary education major and teacher.  They have two sons, both Cobbers, Michael ’79 (Mary Cotton ’79) and Ronald ’81 (Karen Flom).   They have four grandchildren, Michelle and Mark, and Brianne and Kara.

Dr. James Nestingen ‘67

 A 1967 graduate of Concordia, James Nestingen, is associate professor of church history at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary.   After graduating from Concordia, he studied at Luther Theological Seminary. In 1984, he received a Doctorate in Theology from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.  He served as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Coquille, Oregon from 1971-1974.  He was curriculum editor for Augsburg Publishing House (1974-1978) and went to Luther Northwestern Seminary from 1976-1978, returning in 1980. He has devoted the last 23 years (this current as of 2003) to teaching at Luther Seminary.  He served congregations in Oregon and Toronto. He also taught in Tanzania. James has published four books including “Martin Luther: His Life and His Writings”  and written a number of articles published in professional journals.

Dr. Mark P. Johnson ‘76

Mark is the Director of Obstetrical Services in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at the world famous Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  An expert in diagnosing and treating birth defects, Mark is a part of a fetal team whose innovative work includes saving lives by performing surgery on unborn babies.  After graduating from Concordia in 1976, Mark spent five years doing genetic research at the University of Minnesota, where he also earned his master’s and doctorate degrees.  Upon the completion of his residency in OB/GYN at the University of Michigan, he took a clinical fellowship at Detroit Medical Center. Soon after he joined the faculty at Wayne State in the genetics program.  He teamed with Dr. Mark Evans to develop one of the country’s premier centers for prenatal diagnosis and fetal therapy.  Mark was invited to join the Philadelphia Fetal Team in 1998.  He has authored or co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and has become a highly sought speaker at national and international meetings.

Myrna (Hanson) Johnson ‘50

Since she was a young girl, Myrna dreamed of taking her talents on stage as a singer, dancer and actor.  She graduated from Concordia in 1950 with a B.A. in English and Drama.  Her dreams have come true as she has compiled a countless cast of theatrical credits.  She is a founding member of the Northfield Minnesota Arts Guild and has retired as its long-time artistic director.  In her community, Myrna has directed over 100 plays and musicals (1959-1996) and has served as a choir director and organist for over 25 years. 

2002 AAA Recipients

Esther H. (Gronhovd) Allen ‘55

Teaching is Esther Allen’s greatest passion. “There are many ways to teach, and nearly every activity I’ve ever been involved in has included teaching,” says Allen. “My abilities for organization and planning center on my interest in people. I have a passion for people and a compassion.” Allen’s unique skills of leadership, communication skills, problem solving and community building have served her well in every community where he has lived. While living in Bloomington, MN, she co-founded a chapter of Children with Learning Disabilities, coordinated an international convention of professionals who work with children with learning disabilities, and served on the school board. She later became administrative assistant to Minnesota Governor Albert Quie, and was the organizer and coordinator of Concordia’s Centennial celebration and the 1995 royal visit of King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway while serving as President Dovre’s assistant. “I’m definitely a person who likes to take full advantage of opportunities as they come. I feel comfortable talking to people and participating in everything. I believe one of my gifts is organization and the willingness and confidence to be a leader. To me, it’s a chance to teach and have fun. The bigger the challenge, the more fun it is for me.” One of Allen’s biggest honors was the establishment of the Esther H. Allen Humanitarian Award, created by MeritCare Health System of Fargo, to honor those best exemplifying community involvement. “These awards are very humbling because I feel I’m representative of many Concordia graduates who volunteer and work in organizations to keep things going. This Alumni Achievement award represents all of us who work to make our communities better places in which to live.”

Dr. Jeremy R. Torstveit, M.D. ‘69

 Dr. Jeremy Torstveit is a board certified pediatric thoracic and cardiac surgeon practicing in Phoenix and president and co-founder of the Children’s Heart Project. Since 1991, he has made annual trips to Sri Lanka to perform heart surgeries, teach native doctors, and deliver much-needed medical supplies For this pioneering humanitarian work, Torsveit was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. “Almost every day I spend time on logistics or collecting supplies for Sri Lanka,” says Torstveit. “My antenna is out all the time because just a little bit goes a long way over there. Third World countries need the most basic things.” Torsveit is considered to be a model of the Christian healer-physician who gives of his time and skills to the less fortunate. “Concordia is a life experience for me. I grew up across the street from the campus, and the students and professors were my friends. I was exposed since my earliest days to Concordia what Christian service meant. I am so fortunate for that influence on me. I was exposed to ideas and the good things in life, like art and music, and the attitude that anything was reachable for me if I expended the effort. I lived a childhood of grace with no negatives. And when I entered medical school in New York City, I found out that I had been prepared better—decidedly better—than my Ivy League classmates. Concordia offered me an absolutely superb environment to prepare for life.”

Donald J. Gaetz ‘71

Don Gaetz has applied lessons learned at Concordia to his careers in his own distinctly individual style. “I never got a single job in my life because of my Concordia education. I could never have done a single job in my life—in public service, in business, in education—without my Concordia education. I admit that I forgot every lecture but have strained to remember and use every lesson—learned at Concordia.” Gaetz was national oratory champion in 1968 and student body president in 1970. He has since been a principal figure in the American hospital-based hospice, and in 1983, he incorporated Hospice Care, now VITAS Healthcare, with a capital investment of $3,600. Today, VITAS employs 4,000 healthcare workers and operates 23 hospice sites in eight states with annual revenues exceeding $250 million. In 1982, he chaired the effort that gained congressional passage of the Medicare Hospice Benefit, allowing hospice care as a fully reimbursed alternative to hospitalization. In 1985, the National Hospice Organization honored Gaetz as the individual most responsible for the establishment of hospice care within the American healthcare payment system. Now active in governance of the Okaloosa County School Board near his home in Florida, Gaetz led initiatives that resulted in passing historic bonding legislation for $88 million in new public school construction. Gaetz remembers four influential mentors: Dr. Paul Dovre taught me the values and methods of intellectual honesty and rigor; Professor Al Monson taught me to marshal my thoughts well enough to speak and write them; Dr. Ralph Hoppe taught me to delight in literature and conversation; and Pastor Carl Lee gently convinced generations of students that despite our failings, we could and must contribute something in service to God and man. Failing or succeeding in their eyes has always been more important to me than the judgment of any other audience, excepting only my family.”

Dr. Earl Lewis ‘78

A desire for adventure brought Earl Lewis to Concordia. “It was a time when I wanted to be someplace I didn’t know. Coming to the Red River Valley from coastal Virginia was about as different as it gets, but Concordia allowed me to grow in many different ways.” Lewis had intended to earn degrees in psychology and accounting, but after taking an African history class from Dr. David Sandgren, he decided to drop accounting and earn a second major in history. “That’s the beauty of a liberal arts curriculum like Concordia’s. I learned I could explore my possibilities, and during the mid-1970’s there was a sense of exploration on campus. Concordia was small enough so I could explore wherever my interests took me.” Lewis credits his senior research project with Dr. Carroll Engelhardt for helping prepare him for graduate school. “Concordia helped me come to terms with the person I would become. I developed my academic interests, and I found out I wasn’t limited to one field; I learned I could pursue interdisciplinary interest But primarily, my time at Concordia reminds me of the importance of community. I enjoyed working with others willing to take me in, and it was a time to learn about ourselves by accepting our differences.” A rising star in higher education administration, Lewis is dean of the graduate school and vice-provost at the University of Michigan. An active historian, he has published books on race, gender, and culture in American society, including “Love on Trial,” a study of race relations during the Harlem Renaissance. Under his guidance, the University of Michigan’s graduate program in African-American history and culture has recently been ranked first in the country. Lewis was a member of the history faculty at the University of California at Berkeley before joining the Department of History and Afro-American Studies at Michigan in 1989.

2001 AAA Recipients

Rev. Rolf Aaseng ’48

Even if you don’t know the Rev. Rolf Aaseng, chances are you’ve read something he’s written. A retired editor of 20 years with the Lutheran Teacher, The Lutheran Standard, and Augsburg Publishing House, Aaseng has authored 14 books and hundreds of articles for Christian publications. Aaseng graduated from Luther Seminary and received his master of sacred theology from New York Theological Seminary. He served parishes in Park Rapids (Minn.) and Dorset (Minn.) before moving from the pulpit to the pen as editor of Lutheran Teacher in 1958. In 1960 he began a 15-year stint as associate editor at Lutheran Standard. He then worked as curriculum editor at Augsburg Publishing House from 1974 to 1979. His best-selling book, “Sacred Sixty-Six,” originated as a series of devotionals written for The Lutheran Standard. It opened the Bible in a powerful way for churches and families everywhere. Three of Aaseng’s books - “Lift Up Your Heads,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Studying the Bible,” and “Reflections in a Mission Mirror” - are still in print. The latter two were inspired by his mission work in Umpumulo, South Africa, where he served as Bible teacher and acting vice principal at Lutheran Theological College from 1980 to 1988. Despite the tension and danger associated with the volatile political climate of the times, Aaseng cherished the opportunity. Aaseng’s love for writing was fostered during his days as editor of The Concordian. His Concordia career was interrupted in the middle of his sophomore year when he left for war service. He says he came back to college more mature and with a better idea of what the world needed. “The experience crystallized my plans to get into ministry. Concordia opened up all kinds of possibilities and the encouragement to try anything I wanted to do and see how it worked.”

Dr. Carl Bailey '40

 Bailey is a brilliant scientist more than 60 years in the making. After graduating from Concordia, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Minnesota. His intriguing career included work in nuclear weapons development at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory from 1942 to 1946. He served on the advisory boards of both the United States Merchant Marine Academy and the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary SChools. In 1979, he was on the Minnesota governor’s commission on nuclear reactor safety.  Driven not only by his profession but also by his deep Christian faith, Bailey brought his values to the classroom every day for more than 40 years as a professor of physics, from 1947 to 1988.  That span also included 18 years as dean of the College, during a pivotal time in Concordia’s history.  “The college was growing rapidly,” recalls Bailey, “and we had to keep pace in the academic realm. It wasn’t just a question of staff and facilities, but keeping the curriculum current and progressive.”  Bailey relished the dual roles of dean and professor, and his enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring never waned.  “I always appreciated the discipline and dedication of students in my classes,” he says. “They were always so good - not just intellectually, but also personally. Teaching people like that made my experience so rewarding.”  Though he officially retired in 1988, Bailey hasn’t stopped teaching. Much of his work these days involves the famed microparticle accelerator he helped secure for the college. His recent F/M Communiversity course exploring the mystery of the atom was a smashing success.    

Earl Strinden ’53

Earl Strinden had a motto that served him well during his three-decade career in politics.  He thinks every politician should be reminded of it daily: “Fame is a vapor. Popularity is most often a mistake. It is strength of character that has true and lasting meaning.”

Strinden’s strength of character stood the test of time throughout his distinguished service in the North Dakota House of Representatives. Once tabbed “the finest legislative mind ever produced in North Dakota” by The (Fargo, N.D.) Forum, the longtime Republican Majority Leader captured 10 consecutive victories while serving the House from 1966 to 1988. He spearheaded key legislation in coal development, the creation of the State Department of Human Services, education, water projects and tax reform. Along the way, the former Marine picked up his share of battle scars. “I was never afraid of controversy, “ he says. “If someone was mad at me, that was just fine - it’s a natural part of the process. A good leader has to be out on the front lines taking the political shots when they come.”

A native of Litchville, N.D., Strinden earned his master’s degree at the University of North Dakota and taught briefly in Thief River Falls, Minn., before returning to Grand Forks as manager and part owner of his family’s hardware business.  He landed a spot on the Grand Forks City Council before shifting to state politics and returning to UND. During most of his 31 years there, he served as executive vice president and chief executive officer of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation. During that time, UND assets grew from $1 million in 1978 to more than $130 million in 2000. “Time after time in development work you discover the goodness of people and their genuine desire to leave the world a better place. I believe everyone wants something standing that is noble and to make their life count for the benefit of others.”

Strinden’s fondness for Concordia, where son Tom ’84 earned his pre-medicine degree, also remains strong. “Concordia is a tremendous family. I made great friends there and I always had the highest regard for Dr. (Joseph) Knutson. You can’t help but be influenced by people you admire and respect, especially when you see the strength of their character.”

Dr. Dorothy M. Still Smoking ’73

Her grandparents raised her to be proud of her Blackfeet heritage. Today, Dorothy M. Still Smoking is sparking pride in a whole new generation of Blackfeet and showing them the power of education. In 1985, Still Smoking co-founded the Piegan Institute, a private, nonprofit organization designed to preserve, protect and promote Blackfeet language and culture. A key part of that effort is Blackfeet immersion schools for children in grade K-6, which is rapidly gaining popularity. In just six years, enrollment has reached 48 students and there is a long waiting list.

“I looked at what Concordia Language Villages does (through culture and language learning) and that gave me a lot of ideas,” says Still Smoking, who earned her doctorate in education at Montana State University. “I figure if Concordia’s programs could rejuvenate and institute language, so could we." It’s a much healthier picture than the one she saw in her earlier days as director of the Blackfeet Head Start program. “Children were being schooled in dilapidated trailers. You could see snow blowing under the doors into the classrooms and mice running across the floor. I couldn’t imagine parents keeping their children in that kind of environment.”

Still Smoking orchestrated a dramatic turnaround in her 11 years there. Every classroom was replaced, five new learning centers were established, staff expanded from 36 to 120, and student enrollment jumped from 200 to 500. Her efforts earned her 1994 Administrator of the Year honors from the National Head Start Association. Still Smoking’s never-ending commitment to education also included prominent roles at Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Mont., from academic dean and Native American studies faculty member to president. Her primary focus now is on consulting work for the Piegan Institute and her ongoing role as an adjunct faculty member at Oklahoma State University. Those who knew Still Smoking during her days as a student at Concordia would not be surprised by her leadership ability. She helped recruit 18 Indian students to campus and organized an impressive powwow at Memorial Auditorium. She also found abundant opportunities to enlighten and be enlightened.

2000 AAA Recipients

Nelle Wang ’31

Nelle Wang epitomizes the American work ethic. At 90-years young she puts in 35 hours a week as controller for Norman Jessen and Associates Inc., in Williston, N.D. “Going to work is therapy for me,” explains Wang. “I bond with people and keep in touch with what’s happening.” Born in a log house on her father’s homestead in Cartwright, N.D., she was the first in her township to graduate college. And she cherished her Cobber memories. She’ll never forget her first Concordia Homecoming weekend. “My athletic prowess was nil, but I did win freshmen-sophomore 100-yard dash that freed us freshmen from wearing our green beanies for another three weeks!” Most important, Concordia is where she met her husband, the late Gilman Wang ’32. Their commitment to Concordia lives on through the Nelle and Gilman Wang Scholarship Fund.

Nelle held several positions in the banking industry until 1942 when she and Gil returned to Cartwright to run her family farm for 15 years. In 1957, they accepted positions with Northwestern Federal Savings and Loan Association in Williston, where they worked together with Northwestern until moving on to her current position in 1976. Nelle’s résumé also includes countless contributions to church and community. She especially enjoyed her role as a board member of the Women’s Missionary Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She remains an active member of Williston Lutheran Church.

Willmar Thorkelson ’40

“Choose work you really enjoy and you’ll want to devote your whole life to it,” says Willmar Thorkelson. And he has done just that. Thorkelson has enjoyed a front-pew view of some of the world’s most significant events during a 60-year career as a religion writer. He’s met numerous religions leaders and share audiences with Pope John XXIII and Billy Graham. He credits Concordia for sparking his interest in religion. It’s also where he began his award-winning writing career. As editor of the Concordian, he led the student newspaper to its first All-America rating. That was only the beginning. 

“I had the opportunity to cover eight assemblies of the World Council of Churches from its founding in Amsterdam in 1948, to its 50th anniversary celebration in Zimbabwe in 1998. I’ve also had the privilege of attending three of the Second Vatican Council gatherings in Rome.”

After Graduating from Concordia, Thorkelson accepted assignments with the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune and Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune before landing a job with the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). He served as religion editor for most of his 40 years there and has 50 years of bylines in the Lutheran magazine and the Christian Century. He has also contributed to scores of national publications and he continues to freelance for Metro Lutheran, a monthly newspaper published in Minneapolis. His work has been honored by the Religion Newswriters Association; the Religious Public Relations Council; the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and the Associated Church Press.

Randolph “Casey” Jones ’50

As an internationally respected choral conductor for 50 years, Randolph “Casey” Jones ’50 has strived to “reveal with convictions the profound thought of great composers.”

A member of the Colorado Music Educators Hall of Fame, Jones has served as conductor and music director of TheColorado Choir since 1977. He has directed 50 choirs in his brilliant career, conducting more than 1,200 concerts in 28 stated and 19 countries. Jones fostered his love of music at Concordia, singing in the choir for legendary conductor Paul J. Christiansen, one of his most memorable mentors.

The first stanza of Jones’ conducting career opened at Grafton (N.D.) Lutheran Church Choirs in 1950; he became minister of music at United Lutheran Church, Grand Forks, N.D., in 1954; and in 1958 he started nine choirs at Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead. He was a member of Concordia College faculty from 1960-62, where he conducted the Chapel Choir and Oratorio Chorus.

After receiving his master’s degree in music from Indiana University in 1964, Jones joined the faculty at Adams State College, Alamosa, Colo. He led the choral program for 21 years, wowing audiences worldwide with powerful performances of sacred music - music he promotes and defends with passion.

“When they outlawed sacred music in public high schools, it but a knife through vocal music,” says Jones. “They can’t sing the masters anymore.” He made sure that didn’t happen at Adams State. “I remember the chair of the English department complaining that we sang Bach too much,” says Jones. “He didn’t like all the religious music. I told him to be quiet about it ‘because if I can’t sing Bach, you can’t perform Shakespeare.’ He became my best supporter from that day on.”

David Hetland ’69

David Hetland had designs on becoming an artist since second grade. He never pictured Concordia playing such a prominent role in realizing that dream. Hetland says he came to Concordia “sort of unintentionally - passing on scholarship offers elsewhere so he could be closer to home during a time of family needs. Since 1979, Hetland has served as president of Hetland Ltd., Fargo, N.D. His firm specializes in graphic design, stained glass, mosaic and liturgical art for publications and architectural spaces.  His current projects include commissions in seven states. No matter how much he takes on, Hetland never seems to run out of inspiration.

Hetland’s art interest blossomed at Concordia under the watchful eye of his teacher and mentor, Cy Running. Shortly after Hetland graduated from Concordia, Running hired him to work on a mosaic project he was doing for Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead. Hetland says that experience changed his life.

“It was like someone opened the door and turned on the light,” he says. “ I had worked with Cy on Christmas concert murals for several years, but that project was really the turning point. And I’ve never gone back. Cy still influences me every day. Every project I do I’m reminded of something we talked about or something he did.”

Hetland has produced hundreds of inspiring works of art - none more so than the masterful mural creations that have provided a breathtaking backdrop for Concordia Christmas concerts for three decades. Whimsical images hidden within those murals add to the audience’s delight. Hetland says he tried to keep the hidden images subtle so they don’t distract from the deeper meaning of the concert. “The rule I’ve lived by in the business-artistic world is to give people what they want and a little bit more,” he says. “When people see the mural, it creates a lasting image they can take home.”

1999 AAA Recipients

Dr. Curtis Baaken ‘56

“I’m a long-term optimist and a short term pessimist—every day is a good day!” As a child growing up in Hawley, MN, Dr. Curtis Bakken dreamed of becoming a doctor. The fact that he had little money didn’t stop him. After graduating from Concordia, he went on to medical school, graduating with honors. In 1980 the Mayo Clinic named him director of its financially struggling Medical Laboratories. Undaunted by the operation’s deficit balance, Curtis developed a proactive sales and marketing department that let the world know about the Mayo Clinic’s Laboratory services. When he retired 15 years later, Mayo’s Medical Laboratories was a profitable, renowned international operation. Known for his infectious enthusiasm and positive attitude, Curtis served on the Concordia Board of Regents and as president of the Alumni Board. He delights in bringing people together, he and his wife, Ruth, lead annual bicycle ours of Europe, sharing their adventurous spirit with people around the world. “I have a hand-carved plaque in my office of James 2:14 ‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?’ I think about that verse every single day.”

Joanne (Hanson) Negstad ‘58

“God leads us in ways we don’t always understand at the time, but when we look back it all makes sense.” Joanne Negstad marvels at the path her life has taken…and is profoundly grateful. President and chief executive officer of Lutheran Services in America, Joanne manages a nationwide network of Lutheran human service and long-term care programs that annually delivers more than $3 billion in services to two million people in 3,000 communities. Chair of the ELCA Churchwide Children’s Initiative, she is passionate about helping others, earning high praise for her ability to lead with integrity and compassion. “It is so important to support and coach the people with whom I work. People get a lot of energy if they are genuinely affirmed for what they are doing. In times of anxiety it’s also important to be a circuit breaker rather than a transformer.” Joanne’s strong desire to serve goes back to her childhood. Her father was a pastor; her other a leader in church activities. “Life is satisfying when I am really in tune with my walk with God. I want to continue to learn, to be in healthy relationships, and to continue doing work that contributes to the greater good.”

Ronald D. Offutt ‘64

“Failure is a momentary score—the final game outcome is your walk through life. No matter what happens, you can’t give up.” Ron Offutt has never given up, regardless of the challenge facing him. When the farm boy who couldn’t afford college was offered the chance to play football at Concordia—and a job washing socks to help pay tuition—he said yes and never looked back. Now that farm boy is the world’s leading potato grower, with 55,000 acres in nine states and a frozen foods plant that produces French fries for McDonalds, Burger King and other major restaurant chains; his RDO Equipment is the largest string of John Deere stores in the nation. Ron acknowledges it has been quite a journey. “Opportunity has presented itself in both the successes and failures—and the failures have brought wisdom.” Chair of the Concordia Board of Regents and co-chair of the 21st Century Fund, he has helped the college surpass the $60 million goal with a year left in the campaign; and he isn’t finished dreaming. “Every time you climb to the top of the hill and think you’re done, you look out and see there are other hills you would like to climb. With a combination of hard work, perseverance and a sense of fairness, you can do it.”

Al Siegle ‘57

It was a high school football team coach Al Siegle will never forget—and the players will never forget him. “At the beginning of the season those guys had no idea or concept of winning. But they worked hard, and got a little bit better every game. They never gave up. At the end of the season, those kids still hadn’t won a game, but they had gained so much insight about life. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in coaching.” Al has had a profound influence on countless young lives during the 36-year career in teaching and coaching and administration. Named Pelican Rapids Teacher of the Year, he was inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 1994 was named Minnesota Athletic Director of the Year. He has dedicated his life to bringing out the best in young people. When students needed a friend, they knew they could go to Al. “It’s important to be patient and be a good listener. You have to understand their life situations, and help them find solutions to their problems.” Al’s philosophy is simple. “Whatever situation you’re in, make the best of it. Ground yourself in a strong faith in your God, then go out and do the best you can.” 

1998 AAA Recipients

Dr. Albert Anderson ’51

When Dr. Albert Anderson is asked to speak at high school and college commencements, his advice to the graduates is always the same. “Aim high and a little to the left.” In other words, dream big and think “outside of the box.”

Following that advice has worked for him - and countless students and numerous organizations throughout the country that reap the benefits of his expertise as a respected philosopher, theologian, teacher and administrator. His accomplished career includes chair of philosophy departments at Concordia and Augsburg; vice president of institutional advancement at Luther College; director of development at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs; president of Lenoir-Rhyne College and Misericordia College; senior development officer for the University of Minnesota Foundation; and managing partner and founder of Anderson/Swenson Inc., Minneapolis. He also helped develop and served as the first provost of Tri-College University.

“We need to be fully open to the future. Embrace the changes and concentrate on developing the character that will see us through those changes. It is that development of character that comes before anything else.

Martha Maakestad ’65

Growing up a pastor’s daughter, moving every five or six years, Martha Maakestad learned early to make the most of every opportunity. When the talented nurse was hired at a small hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., she rose quickly to the challenge of working in a medical facility located in an economically depressed community. “I enjoy serving. I became hooked on this area because it is so diverse and seemed to be a place where there was a need.”

Martha is now one of the top administrators at Lutheran Medical Center, which has grown to a 520-bed medical facility. Vice president for patient care since 1976, she manages to hospital’s $50 million annual nursing budget and is responsible for all aspects of nursing budget and is responsible for all aspects of nursing services throughout the medical center and the Sunset Park Family Family Health Center Network. She also developed the medical center’s Women’s Health Partnership, and was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the YWCA of Brooklyn. “As it says in Luke 12:48, ‘. . .From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’ I was given a lot in my life, and I think it’s necessary to give back.”

Dr. Larry Fleming ’60

Seven years ago Dr. Larry Fleming and wife, cut through the forest near Glacier National Park and found a bit of heaven on earth. Together they built a log cabin at the site - a quiet refuge where larry composes and edits the music he loves. Founder and director of the National Lutheran Choir, Larry has an intense passion for sacred choral music. “When you combine music with words and the Word - when it has meaning beyond what it would have by itself - music can awaken and evoke powerful thoughts and memories.”

During his career, the nationally respected educator, writer, arranger, performer, and conductor has led choirs at Concordia, Augsburg, Valparaiso University, Luther Seminary and University of Minnesota; conducted All-State Choirs; directed choirs and orchestras at many international concert halls and worship festivals; and published numerous musical compositions, including “Give Me Jesus,” a top seller for the past two decades and second only to “Beautiful Savior” in total all-time sales. However, Larry doesn’t dwell on past accomplishments, preferring to look ahead.

Dr. David K. Olson ’63

The familiar prayer has hung on the wall of Dr. David Olson’s study for 35 years: “God grant me the strength to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed; the courage to change what can and should be changed; and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.”

 There is no question the professor of political science at the University of Washington in Seattle has had the courage and wisdom to foster change. Recipient of numerous distinguished teaching awards, he has published scores of articles and five books. He has earned an international reputation and groundbreaking research on distinguishing between the public and private sectors, and how the two can best work together to enhance a community, state or nation. A consultant for governing agencies and universities throughout the country and abroad, he is frequently called to give expert testimony in precedent-setting public policy cases.

He was also honored with the university’s prestigious Harry Bridges Endowed Chair in Labor Studies. The monetary award accompanying the endowed chair was directed to founding The Center for Labor Studies, which David established in ongoing efforts to link the university with the community.

1997 AAA Recipients

Miles “Mity” Johnson ‘51

No one  quite remembers how the boy from Elbow Lake, Minn., came to be known as “Mity,” but that’s the nickname Miles Johnson has answered to since childhood, a time he remembers fondly.  “I can’t imagine growing up in a better place. Even though my father died when I was only eight years old, it was like I had 50 fathers. Everyone in town looked out for the three Johnson boys.”

That community’s loving commitment to others lives on in this dedicated, gifted teacher of music. Retired after 37 years as the nationally renowned director of the St. Olaf Band, Mity has inspired students to reach for excellence in music and in their lives. “One of the most important jobs in the world is to be a teacher. No matter which course you teach, students must be taught the difference between right and wrong.”

When Mity retired in 1994, the governor proclaimed “Miles Johnson Day” in Minnesota, honoring the music director whose warmth and enthusiasm brought decades of joy to auditorium audiences and classroom rehearsals – an educator who never stops teaching…or learning.

Florence (Larson) Sponberg ‘37

There was a time when Florence Sponberg didn’t believe she had the strength or courage to make a significant impact in the quest for world peace. One day, during a chance meeting, a stranger offered this encouragement: “just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.”

Professor emeriti of English at Mankato State University, Florence is tireless in efforts to challenge and change destructive forces in the world. Florence and her husband, Raymond, established the MayDay! Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College, an annual event exploring the roads to a nuclear-free world and peace among nations. To underscore the importance of ethical thinking and behavior at home and in the community, the Sponbergs established a chair in ethics at Gustavus; the couple also received the Mankato Book of Golden Deeds Award in 1991.

“Even though there are so many problems today, we try to maintain a positive attitude and have faith that what we are doing will help,” says Florence. When asked how others can help make the world a better place, this dedicated advocate for peace and justice quotes a dear friend, who says “We should love God passionately, and love our neighbor compassionately.”

Coya (Cornelia Gjesdal) Knutson ‘34

“The word vindication never entered my vocabulary.” When Coya Knutson died in October 1996, an article in The Washington Post called her “a transformational figure in America.” In just two terms as the only woman elected to Congress from  Minnesota, Knutson created legislation that led to what she called her proudest professional accomplishments: the student loan program and the first money for cystic fibrosis research. For years, those accomplishments were overshadowed by the infamous “Coya Come Home” letter allegedly written by an abusive, alcoholic husband at the urging of her political foes – what The Washington Post called “one of the more tawdry acts of political sabotage in history.”

 Now, the shadow has lifted. Knutson’s remarkable story of courage, strength and dignity will be told in an NBC-TV movie scheduled in November; Oscar-nominated actress Glenn Close will play Coya.

“One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was her strength of character and steadfastness in faith,” say her son, Terry. “I saw her quiet dignity through her many tragedies. She often said, ‘The world is made up of would haves, could haves, should haves, and maybes. The mark of maturity is making a decision and living with the consequences.”

Earl Stein Jr. ‘54

When Fargo-Moorhead community leaders, service groups and charitable organizations talk about Earl Stein Jr., one word comes up over and over again. That word is loyal.

Through his unwavering loyalty to family, church and community, Earl has distinguished himself as a business leader of the highest integrity. He has served as president of numerous organizations, including the Moorhead Area Chamber of Commerce, Fargo-Moorhead YMCA, North Dakota Reserve Officers Association and Moorhead Rotary Club. A board member at Norwest Bank, MeritCare Medical Center, and Moorhead Stat University Foundation, he also served as chair of Concordia board of regents and C-400. After 34 years in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Earl retired as captain.

As president of Stein’s Inc., Earl saw the family business expand from five employees to 34 at the time of his retirement in 1995. “It’s gratifying to see the company grow with employees who’ve been with us 10, 15, 20 years – they came here and stayed. I feel good about that.” That loyalty is no accident. “I always tried to be honest with them; the door was always open. Trust is very important.

1996 AAA Recipients

Dorothy Heieie ‘54

A green ceramic elephant sent by a friend from Vietnam sits on the floor next to one wall. An ornate brass urn from another part of Southeast Asia stands atop a shelf. A Made-in-America magnet on the refrigerator states simply “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”

Dorothy Heieie’s south Fargo apartment is decorated with a lifetime of gifts and sentimental treasures from the many places where she has helped other bloom during her career as a home economist, teacher and compassionate volunteer.

“At the age of 25 I heard about International Voluntary Services. They told me they had a job in Laos. I didn’t even know where Laos was.” And so began a 17-year overseas journey that took Dorothy into village homes in Laos and Vietnam during the time of the Communist takeover of Laos and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. In countries torn apart by war, she helped develop home economics programs, primarily teaching women how to become leaders so they could help themselves, their families and their communities. When she returned to the United States, she dedicated her life to helping refugees from those countries adapt to life in their new home. “I know what it’s like to be a minority – a stranger in another land. That’s why I so strongly believe when refuges comes here, they should be treated as well as I was treated there.” An although she can’t display them on a shelf in her home, Dorothy treasures the many lessons learned from those strangers who became friends. “Their cultures and their way of life might be very different than ours, but in the things that really count, we are all the same.”

James Parke ‘68

“When I graduated from Concordia and joined General Electric in 1968, I never dreamed I would have the opportunities and successes I’ve had at GE.”

Today James Parke, a native of Glasgow, Mont., is chief financial officer of GE Capital, one of the largest financial services companies with $190 billion in assets and $2.5 billion in net income. Regarded as one of the nation’s top chief financial officers, he has motivated hundreds of individuals to strive for excellence while maintaining the highest ethical standards.

“Concordia reinforced and helped further develop my understanding of ethical behavior. We live in a world where the pressure to perform could result in compromised values. Fortunately I work for a company that tolerates no unethical behavior and hold its values at a very high level.”

Parke and his wife, Shirley (Anderson) ’68, have committed themselves to helping their community and are actively involved in efforts to educate the disadvantaged. Parke’s business and community relationships are characterized by a powerful ability to communicate with compassion and understanding, and a loyal dedication to helping others achieve their goals.

In a busy, competitive world, Parke believes there are three keys to success. “First, change is ongoing and with more speed than ever. Those who embrace change and see out its opportunities will succeed. Second, learning never stops – it only intensifies after college. Inquisitiveness leads to more knowledge, which triggers other alternatives and new ideas. And third, hard work is always a major ingredient in developing successful people.”

Mineyasu Sugita ‘60

“Many Cobbers invited me to their homes on weekends. There I learned how happy a family could be compared with those I had seen in my country.”

For more than three decades, Mineyasu Sugita has dedicated his life to helping Japanese men, women and children bring balance into their lives. Through his work as a professor of social work and clinical psychology at Fukuoka (Japan) Prefectural University, he has been instrumental in promoting a healthy approach to work and recreation in the intensely competitive Japanese society. In promoting a better social climate, this sought-after speaker and author of more than 20 books has led discussions for teachers, school administrators, health professionals, students, parents and citizen groups.

 And always, at the center of his life, is his Christian faith. With his wife, Michiko, he was instrumental in organizing a new Lutheran church in Fukuoka.

“I have an unforgettable memory of my time at Concordia. During my third year at college, a huge typhoon hit the west coast of Japan’s mainland, killing and injuring many people. Concordia was so quick to help the victims by sending money and clothes. I saw the Christian spirit living among Cobbers, and it made my decision clear and concrete as to how I would work upon returning to Japan. Now I am a father of three grown-up children with one grandson. I certainly enjoyed raising my children with my wife, not as an authoritarian or workaholic father, like most of my colleagues. Thanks to Cobbers!”

1995 AAA Recipients

Dr. Loren J. Anderson ’67

“Dr. Anderson, what was your reaction when told about receiving the Concordia Alumni Achievement Award?” Without hesitation, the 12th president of Pacific Lutheran University replies, “Well, my first thought was the selection process is out of control!”

That humble spirit and ever-present sense of humor have played important roles in Anderson’s impressive career as a leader in higher education. From his days as a professor of speech and communication, to his administrative achievements on behalf of the national church, Concordia College and Pacific Lutheran University, this “small-town boy” from Rugby, N.D., has relied on a strong work ethic instilled in him as a child.

“There is no such this as a self-made person. We all gain strength from others,” says Anderson. “We all have wonderful responsibility to use our God-give gifts to the best of our ability, and to use those gifts to help others and our community.”

Anderson is often praised for his inspirational leadership skills and his ability to make dreams become reality. In just three years as president of PLU, Anderson has engineered a remarkable growth in the endowment fund and a 30 percent increase in freshman enrollment. “I believe a good leader in the 1990s must be able to identify talent and build that talent into a cohesive team that shares a common vision.  The secret to success is to have the faith in others to let go of the leadership role, to find the courage to give away responsibility and let others excel. And then, a good leader must say thank you.”

 Eunice (Nordby) Simonson ’52

“To be lovingly called Mama and Bibi (grandmother) by hundreds is one of my greats rewards.”

Eunice Simonson’s life is filled with love - the love she gives in ways too numerous to count; the love she receives in quantities too great to measure. Working side-by-side with her husband, the Rev. Dave Simonson ’51, this nurse-missionary has spent 40 years in Tanzania, helping establish maternal and childhealth education programs; and running her own “backdoor clinic” frequented by mothers and babies. She has reached deep into the hearts of the Maasai people and found joy.

“Our missionary work for the ELCA gives me a sense of awe and thankfulness,” says Eunice. “The lessons learned from difficulties always underline God’s faithfulness. And the lessons we have learned from our African brothers and sisters about faith, love, sharing and life are immeasurable.”

Eunice Simonson, mother of five, grandmother of 15, and Bibi to hundreds of men, women, and children in Africa, says her life has been blessed in many ways.

“Life is a gift, and we have received it in abundance. We have experienced this in relationships it in audience. We have experienced this in in relationships that have been established and nurtured through service to God and to each other. At Confirmation, my father gave me these verses, Psalm 139:23,24. They have been a prayer for me always: ‘Search me, O Lord, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there by any wicked ways in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’"

Joyce Monson Tsongas ’63

“It never occurred to me there might be barriers to reaching my goals. If there were, it would only be those barriers within me.”

As far back as Joyce Monson Tsongas can remember, high expectations and high ethical standards have been powerful guiding forces in her life. She says those values were all around her as a child, growing up on the Concordia campus, where her father was a longtime speech professor and where her mother worked in the placement office. Tsongas says her parents, Allwin ’38 and Dorothy (Nelson) Monson ’38, were inspiring role models. “What my parents form college - positive energy, commitment and intellectual curiosity - they passed on to the next generation.”

Today, the woman who began her professional career teaching high school speech and English and coaching debate and forensics, is president of Tsongas Associates in Portland, Ore., a nationally acclaimed trial consulting firm that has done jury research and consulting work in more than 35 states. Those who work with Tsongas on a professional level praise her pioneering skills and knowledge, ethical insight, compassion, sensitivity, and positive spirit. A tireless volunteer in her community, she believes in the importance of being proactive.

“It has been so rewarding to see how strong values can have an impact in the real world. I believe it is important to have high ethical standards in business because it is simply the right thing to do. But to see proof that having high ethical and competency standards in my profession is also good for business is truly gratifying.

1994 AAA Recipients

Judy (Fosen) Baer ‘73

Judy Baer believes her ability to write is a gift. From God. “My career is very spiritual to me. I feel I have a voice in me that somehow speaks to teenagers. And my instincts tell me that little voice is the voice of God.”

Baer’s “voice” speaks to thousands of young people through her books focusing on issues facing today’s teenagers: peer pressure, teen pregnancy, child abuse, disabilities and prejudice, to name a few. Her Christian fiction series, Cedar River Daydreams, has 21 titles and nearly one million in sales.

“I believe strongly in author responsibility. When you put words on a page, you have no idea how those words will affect people for good or ill. You must be responsible, especially when you’re writing for children. You have to be honest.”

Baer receives more than 200 letters a month from young readers asking for her caring advice. Her readers see her as their “unshockable best friend.”

“A little girl once wrote to tell me about a difficult decision she had to make. She thught about what a character in one of my books had donein a similar situation and decided to do the same thing. She thanked me for my help. And then she added, ‘P.S. I didn’t believe in God before, but I think I do now.’ When you look back on your life, you wonder if you made a difference,” says Baer. “I feel my greatest accomplishment is that, judging by the letters I receive, my writing has made a difference to some young people. Maybe those words, those gifts from God, changed a life or two.”

Mardeth (Bervig) Dovre ‘57

“My folks taught me a great lesson when I was growing up. They always left a place better than they found it. They moved quite a few times and wherever they lived they would fix up their house. They would get involved in the community and their church. That’s what I’d like to do – always leave a place somehow better than I found it.”

Mardeth Dovre has achieved that goal as an educator, community leader, parent and first lady of Concordia. Her warm, open personality and dedication to service have touched many lives: students who took business education classes from her during a 23-year teaching career; residents of communities where she has served on citizens’ advisory committees and taken leadership roles on numerous boards; and countless alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college she holds so dear.

“All the good things that have happened to me in my life are very directly related to Concordia. I prepared for a career here; my family started here; I’ve lived my life here. And it has been such a good life, I hope I am able to give something back....I got the greatest fortune cookie years ago,” says Mardeth. “It said, ‘Do not confuse activity with achievement.’ We can all be so busy, busy busy – but you have to always remember what’s really important in life.”

Norman Jones ‘53

His philosophy is simple. “Stay with what you believe in.”

Norman Jones’ belief in the importance of family, integrity, and Christian values has served him well in business and in life. The chairman and chief executive officer of Metropolitan Financial Corporation, a business with $8 billion in assets and 210 offices in eight states, remembers the early days when Metropolitan was a small seven-employee business located in a tiny north Fargo office.

“I believe we’ve been successful because we’re located in a part of the country where people still believe in honesty and integrity. When they borrow money, they believe in paying it back,” says Jones. “We also had a lot of dedicated employees who had strong Midwestern values who were willing to work to make it happen. They were an important part of our Metropolitan family.”

Jones is proud to be part of the Concordia family. “I am so committed to Concordia because it is one of the few church colleges that really sticks closely to its mission of sending Christian men and women into the workplace; people who have values and a belief in doing what’s right for each other. So many of the problems we have in our country today stem from the loss of those values.

“Jesus says in John 13:34, ‘…love one another; event as I have loved you, that you also love another.’” From the man who guided the creation of a multibillion-dollar business…a very simple bottom line. 

1993 AAA Recipients

Robert “Bob” W. Peterson ‘51

The results have been the same for the past 20 years. When the votes are counted for state auditor, the winner is Bob Peterson.      

A leader in his state, his church and community, Peterson seems to look for new ways to serve. His involvement in scouting is legendary. He recently received the Silver Antelope Award from the Boy Scouts of American National Council, a distinction given to only 11 other leaders in the nation this year. The award is made to those who exemplify distinguished service to youth.

Peterson has established a solid political and professional career and is widely considered to be one of the most popular state officials in North Dakota. He was a respected teacher and successful basketball coach at Williston, N.D., winning a state championship with Phil Jackson, now coach of the three0time NBA champion Chicago Bulls.

Peterson has served as president of his church congregation where he brought his vision, enthusiasm and leadership to help energize the worship and music programs. Keith Odney, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Bismarck writes, “…if there is one word that I believe describes Bob, beyond his leadership and willingness and desire to serve others, that word is integrity. He always seeks to do what is right and honorable, in all aspects of his life, public and private.”

Wilma Jean (Kvenild) Pierson ‘52

She is described as a woman who thinks of others; a woman who works tirelessly to make the world a better place. Wilma J. Pierson gives the precious gifts of time and energy to her church, her community, and to Concordia College.

Pierson is an active member of First Lutheran Church in Minot, serving the congregation on many levels. She is president of the Women of the Church, a member of the church council, and a bible study leader. Her leadership skills have brought her to a number of prestigious positions including executive committee member of the National Board of the American Lutheran Church Women, and membership on the advisory board for the commitment to Mission Appeal of the American Lutheran Church.

For six years Pierson served on the Concordia College Board of Regents, making valuable contributions to the group and promoting college throughout western North Dakota. With her husband, Warren, she is an active volunteer on behalf of Concordia, and their four children are all Cobbers.

This woman of the church spends much of her time reaching out to her community. She has worked as a volunteer with the Women’s Action Board in Minot, setting up and maintaining a shelter for battered women. Through her efforts to help others, she is indeed one of the finest examples of Concordia’s commitment to service.

Roland D. Martinson ‘64

“A remarkable man.”

“A gift to our church.”

“One of Christ’s most active followers.”

These are some of the words friends and colleagues use to describe Dr. Roland Martinson,  professor of pastoral care and counseling at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul. Martinson has dedicated his life to helping others through words and deed.

A leader in the church at every level, Martinson is a sensitive man who is able to channel his energies into nurturing, caring relationships with the people he meets. His programs to help troubled young people and families earn praise from scholars and congregations alike. Martinson is regarded as a faculty leader, motivating others to continually work on revising and upgrading curriculum.

This gifted teacher travels the world in his service for the division of global mission of the ELCA. Martinson is a recognized lecturer in workshops, conferences and congregations across the country. He serves as a consultant to congregations and education institutions on matter affecting children, singles, marriage and the family.

Martinson also blesses those around him with his delightful sense of humor. David Tiede, president of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary writes, “When he turned 50 this summer, we teased him about getting older. Rollie immediately stood on his hands and walked around the room to demonstrate that the Concordia College pole vaulter was still with us!”

1991/1992 AAA Recipients

Calvin R. Larson ‘52

In a day marked by disenchantment with the political process, it is cause for hope and rejoicing to find among legislative ranks individuals who consistently demonstrate great integrity, and who weigh not only the legality of issues but whether or not they represent the right thing to do.

Such a person is Cal Larson, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1967 to 1974 and who has been a member of the Minnesota Senate since 1987.

Respected in both Parties, the energetic legislator is known for his untiring efforts on behalf of his constituents. “A prolific legislative author, Larson seems to perpetually be in the midst of state battles, carrying the torch of rural Minnesota with great tenacity,” one newspaper editor wrote, praising Larson for his “fortitude in engaging the issues of the day.”

Owner-operator of C.R. Larson Co., insurance and real estate, Cal Larson is committed to helping people through community service as well. A strong leader, he has been president or board member of virtually every major organization, fund drive, advisory and planning committee in the city and country. He was most recently appointed to the Minnesota Council for the Blind. A charter member of Concordia’s C-400 Blub, Larson was also a member of the college’s Board of Regents and served as its chair.

Larson’s wife, Loretta (Pederson) and their two children are also Concordia graduates.

Solveig M. (Stenerson) Swendseid '50

When she couldn’t answer a question about what “American church women do about missions,”Solveig Swendseid did not let the question drop. When a search of American Lutheran Church Words Missions records and archives revealed a dearth of information, she wrote a proposal, which was subsequently approved; set up an efficient and well-organized plan of action; and conducted a project, Women in Global Mission, that resulted in in-depth taped interviews of 98 missionary women. She carefully verified the information and had transcripts made, which are now part of the church archives and of the libraries of three seminaries.

When she was asked for advice on creating an organization for battered women, Swendseid did not let the question drop. She helped set up the bookkeeping recordkeeping, reporting and fund raising for the Southern Valley Alliance for Batter Women, and though she lived 45 miles away, contributed countless hours as a volunteer.

When questions began arising about inclusive language in the church, Swendseid did not let the questions drop. She brought a resolution before the Southwest Minnesota District of the ALC.

These are but three examples from the full and purposeful life of a woman of many talents and varied careers – missionary with her husband to Japan for 13 years, homemaker, mother, organist, administrator – a woman who takes action while most people just talk.

Solveig’s husband, the Rev. M. Douglas Swendseid, and three of their four daughters are also graduates of Concordia.

John C. Ylvisaker '59

When John Ylvisaker graduated from Concordia with a music education major in 1959, he took a teaching position in Morris, Minn. He was surprised and discouraged to discover that his high school music students did not share his enthusiasm for the classical music he knew and loved so well.

And so he bought a guitar and taught himself to play. Class response told him he was onto something. A Pete Seeger concert fully converted him to the message and medium of tradition music.

Thus began a ministry that introduced to the Lutheran Church a new genre of church music – the contemporary folk hymn – a combination of folk song and rock ‘n’ roll. For the past 32 year4s John Ylvisaker has been traveling the United States, playing and singing his songs – of which there are more than 1,000. He has produced three songbooks – Borning Cry I, II and III (named after his most popular composition) – and has contributed numerous liturgies to other collections.

Older audiences, not having grown up with rock ‘n’ roll, warmed slowly to his innovative styles, which sounded strange to their ears. Young people, however, were from the beginning attracted to the lively beat, singable melodies and cogent messages of this fresh and interesting music.

He maintains a busy schedule, playing nearly every week at conferences and conventions, worship services and Bible camps. He has appeared at Concordia on several occasions, and his liturgies and hymns are often used in Concordia worship services.

Junald Rendahl '23

Picture and Bio not accessible

1990 AAA Recipients

Agnes Geelan '26

Donald Hagen '59

Leif Johnson '39

1989 AAA Recipients

Peter Ristuben '55

Iraj Niroomand '52

Shirley Teig '57

1988 AAA Recipients

David Birkeland '60

Helen Torgelson '54

Roy Harrisville  '44


1987 AAA Recipients


 Connie Friesen '67

 David Olson '56

 Herbert Morgenthaler '61

1986 AAA Recipients


 Mary Lee Enfield '54

 Richard Green '61

 Theodore Hondrom '41

1985 AAA Recipients


B.K. Soby '24

 Norman Holen '59

 Ralph Johnson '33 

1984 AAA Recipients


 Harvey Gunderson '35

 Paul Peterson '62

 Rebecca Lukens '44

1983 AAA Recipients


 Charles Halgrimson '56

 Loanne Thrane '55

 Merlin Rostad '35 

1982 AAA Recipients


 Rev. Lowell Almen '63

 Sterling Rygg '36

 Donald Berglund '37

1981 AAA Recipients


 Clifford Enger '33

 Donald Teisberg '37



1980 AAA Recipients


Esther Onstad '33

Dr. Donald Bentley '42


1979 AAA Recipients

Kathryne '50 and
Richard Hoffland '49

Howard Nelson '36

William Dosland '49

1978 AAA Recipients


 Dr. E. V. Fuglestad '49

 Arthur Lund '42

Dr. Harley Carlson '47

1977 AAA Recipients


Sidney Rand '38

 Andrew Hendrickx '59

Herman Iverson '37

1976 AAA Recipients


 Carrol Malvey '34

 Clara Paulson '30

 Rev. David Brown '48

1975 AAA Recipients


Engan '34

Jacobson '34

Johnson '42

Narveson '25

1974 AAA Recipients


 Norman Lorentzsen '41

Erling Rolfsrud '36

 Lloyd Svendsbye '51

1973 AAA Recipients


Otto Berg '43


Morgan Olson '31


Fredrick Hallanger '24 

1972 AAA Recipients


 Joseph Birkeland '30

 Ruth Rasmussen '21

 Marlene Wilson '53

1971 AAA Recipients


 Grace Blomquist '34

 Gabriel Hauge '35

 James Krause '51

1970 AAA Recipients


 Fernanda Malmin '23

 Lloyd Sveen '40

 Rev. David Simonson '51

1969 AAA Recipients-None

1968 AAA Recipients


 Rudolf Lavik '17

 Dr. Sigurd Mundhjeld '25

 Marvell Peterson '33

1967 AAA Recipients


 Dr. Warren Pierson '50

 Rev. Joseph Valtinson '18